Family Travel

3 Fun Outdoor Adventures on Oahu with Kids

Our dream has always been to return to Oahu! After visiting in 2005 (before kids) the husband and I always knew we wanted to come back. We recently had the incredible opportunity to return to Oahu and we took the kids with us. Since I remembered this beautiful island for all it’s natural beauty I knew that we had to carve out loads of time for fun outdoor adventures on Oahu with kids! Read on to learn about three fun ways to explore this magical place on your next trip. Aloha!

This was us back in 2005, visiting Hanauma Bay, before kids.

3 Fun Outdoor Adventures on Oahu with Kids

Back then we dreamed of having a family and bringing them back to vacation on Oahu one day. Well, I’m so happy to report that dreams do come true! We’ve been on some really fun family trips lately but the kids absolutely loved this vacation and were as excited as we were to explore Oahu. These 3 fun outdoor adventures on Oahu with kids were not only the perfect way to see the island but we also a great way to make some unforgettable family travel memories!

1. Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore

This is a great place to explore as a family! Waimea Valley offers a great opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture along a beautiful landscape that stretches from the mountains to the sea. This beautiful valley encourages visitors to experience its natural environment while learning about the values and traditions of Hawaii’s heritage.

As we explored the 1,875-acre valley we got a glimpse into Hawaii’s culture, past and present, through daily hands-on programs. Here you’ll encounter a wide array of hands-on programs that will help you discover cultural, botanical and ecological wonders as you walk through the valley. Some of the daily cultural activities include crafts, lei making, hula and ukulele, Hawaiian games, crafts, and cultural demonstrations. My kids loved this!

Waimea Botanical Gardens

We also loved just walking through the valley and taking in all the different varieties of plants that are part of the Botanical Collections on display here. Learn about the natural origin of familiar, and not so familiar, plants. The Botanical Gardens here are made up of the finest collection of rare and native plants and flowers. Also many others are brought here as seed or cutting from places all around the world.

There are 41 well defined zones within the Botanical Gardens at Waimea Valley and 5,000 different types of plants from all around the world are on display. Each plant is identified with engraved tags that display the name and origin, color coded to identify standard, rare, and endangered species.

But plants aren’t all that you’ll see when visiting the Botanical Gardens. This valley is also a bird sanctuary so you’ll find that a wide variety of rare birds live here. For example the Hawaiian moorhen, a small waterbird endemic to Hawaii and considered to be extremely endangered.

Waimea Falls

Last but not least, is the majestic Waimea Falls (also known as the Wailele Falls). Such a treat after a long walk through the Waimea Valley. In Hawaiian, Waimea means reddish brown water but don’t let the color of the water here stop you from taking a dip under the falls! It was one of my family’s favorite experiences on Oahu. Life vests are mandatory and provided free of charge so everyone can swim safely. Just make sure to bring a pair of water shoes as there are many rocks and small boulders you’ll have to climb over as you make your way into the water.

Waimea Valley and waterfalls on Oahu

2. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

We decided to head out to the southeastern-most point of Oahu and take a family hike along the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail! When I planned this little adventure for my family, the draw was catching a glimpse of the picturesque lighthouse that sits at the mountain top. The historic red-roofed lighthouse looked pretty. However, it wasn’t until I was on the trail that I realized that the lighthouse is not actually a place you can walk up to. Once at the top of the trail you can look down and see the lighthouse from afar, sitting at the top of a majestic 600-foot sea cliff, but the path that leads you to it is actually off-limits and secured by a large fence. So what’s the point of hiking up here then if you can’t get an up close look at the Makapu’u Lighthouse?

The views! Oh the views! 

The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking and totally worth the 2-mile trek! With kids, it took us about an hour to make it to the top. The way back down was a bit faster! Just make sure to bring enough water with you as you will need it. The sun gets hot and everyone will appreciate a refreshing drink while completing this hike. 

The path along this trail is paved which makes for easy walking. Lined with cactuses and green brush, it’s a pretty walk. Once you reach the top you can take it all in from two lookout points. The views from here are incredible, deep blue ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see! 

Breathtaking Views

The scenic shoreline of Makapu’u Beach stretches out and makes it’s way towards the North Shore right in front of you. It’s such a beautiful view! From here you can also see two small islands: Mãnana, also known as Rabbit Island, and Kãohikaipu. Both islands serve as wildlife sanctuaries for Hawaiian seabirds.

If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of an aquatic giant out in the distance. Yes, humpback whales can be spotted in the waters here! I hear that a whale spotting is actually the highlight of a walk along the Manakau’u Lighthouse Trail from December through May. We visited during the month of April and although we hoped for a little magic we just didn’t spot any majestic mammals in the deep blue water below. Maybe next time!

3. Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve

Beautiful Hanauma Bay is the site of some of the best snorkeling on the island. Once a gaping volcanic crater, today it serves as both a Nature Preserve and Marine Life Conservation District. About 400 species of fish are known to inhabit this hana. Hana means bay in Hawaiian. This bay is also known for it’s abundance of Green sea turtles, known as Honu in Hawaiian.

Hanuama Bay is an extremely popular tourist destination so I recommend you get here early. They open as early as 6:00 AM daily, except Tuesday when they’re closed. We didn’t arrive till 10AM and had to circle around a few times before finally being allowed to enter the parking lot as it was already full. 

Family Fun Awaits!

Before making your way down the steep hill to the beach at Hanauma Bay, all visitors must make a quick stop at the Marine Education Center where a short video presentation instructs you on how to respect the environment and gives you the rules you must follow during your time here. Once on the beach, you can enjoy fun times in the sun, take a swim and snorkel at your leisure. This place is great for families with small kids as there are no waves and there’s plenty of sand for castle building. Lifeguards are on duty, and there are restroom facilities on site. Snorkel gear is available for rental at a nearby kiosk, right off the sand.

Mahalo (thank you in Hawaiian) for reading about our fun outdoor adventures on Oahu with kids!

Now don’t forget to pin this so you can come back to it later when planning your own Oahu vacation with kids!

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